The importance of stretching

Importance of stretching

One of the most under-rated aspects of health and fitness

Stretching is one of the most under-rated aspects of health and fitness and one that many of us choose to ignore; ‘I’ll do it later’ or ‘I haven’t got time’ are phrases we hear too often in the gym.

When should I stretch?

Muscles are more easily stretched when they are warm. A short warm-up period of five or more minutes of walking, cycling, or jogging will warm up your muscles enough so that you can stretch them well. It is best if you can stretch every day. It is especially important to stretch before and after strength training, running, or participating in any sport. Stretching after workouts helps to relax the muscles and reduce soreness.

How should I stretch?

There are several different types of stretch but the safest and most popular method involves static stretching. With static stretching, your muscle is slowly lengthened to the point where you feel a mild stretch. You then hold the position for 15 to 30 seconds and then slowly release the stretch. The most important rule to follow for any stretching exercise is that it must not be painful. If you stretch to the point of pain, the muscle will not relax and might even become tighter!

Proven benefits of stretching

One of the many benefits of stretching is that it helps prevent injuries while training or simply running for a bus. Stretching will increase the length of both your muscles and tendons, which leads to an increased range of movement, meaning your limbs and joints can move further before an injury occurs. Stretching properly can:

  • Help prevent injuries
  • Relieve soreness from exercise
  • Improve blood circulation
  • Reduce stress and moodswings
  • Increase and release energy
  • Improve concentration levels

To stretch safely follow these rules:

  • Never force a stretch - it should always be pain-free
  • Never stretch when your muscles are cold
  • Stretching should be avoided if you have just injured a muscle or joint and there is noticeable swelling or bruising in the area
  • Use extra caution if you have osteoporosis or have been using steroid medicine for a long period of time
  • Avoid stretching in the area of a recent fracture.

Which stretches should I do?

After an all over body workout, try to stretch all the major muscles of the body that have been worked. If you are getting ready for a certain activity (such as, running, tennis, walking, etc.), make sure you stretch the areas of your body that will be used in that activity. If you are looking to stretch a particular muscle group and are unsure how, take a look at our Exercise Library which features lots of stretch demonstrations.

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